By Rose Reyes
Did you know that Cavite, famous for its rich history, is a go-to place for really good comfort food and local delicacies? While the province may be underrated compared to more popular food destinations like Pampanga, Cebu and Iloilo, people in the know prefer it that way. After all, that makes it easy to grab Ensaimada de Cavite and Pancit Pusit, to name a few, anytime you had a craving.
Caviteños are fiercely proud of their home and culture. It is this same pride and strong ties to the community that prompted sisters Larissa Antoinette and Liza Abigail M. Baloy to funnel their training, entrepreneurial spirit and passion for eating to open AU FOUR BAKERY. It officially opened in October 2019 in the quaint and laid back town of Sta. Cruz, Cavite City.
Au Four is French for “baked in an oven”; the name also represents the family of four behind the business, including Mom, Luz M. Baloy and Dad, Antonio M. Baloy.
We visited the bakery a few weeks after its opening and chatted with the very young owner Ms. Larissa, who just graduated summa cum laude with a BS Entrepreneurship degree from Enderun Colleges a few months ago. We discovered that what makes this place unique aside from its cool French theme and truly incredible offerings (Breads! Cakes! Sweets!) are more ties that bind — love for family and God. Au Four Bakery is a casual sit-down bakery but it’s also more of a grab-and-go kind of place.
Ms. Larissa started baking when she was 15 years old. “I was greatly influenced by my sister (whom she fondly calls Ate Abbey) who likes cooking and baking for other people. I remember watching her in our bakeshop’s kitchen make cookies, revel bars and more and then she’ll put them in cute boxes to give to our friends and family. From then on, I wanted to bake on my own too because I liked seeing the smiles on the faces of our loved ones [when] we give our pastries. At an early age, I’ve realized that food should be able to bring joy to others,” she said with a dimpled smile.
The sisters were also heavily influenced by the family’s love for bread and the clan’s passion for cooking comfort food. When their Dad came home for good after working overseas for 21 years, their parents put up the family-owned Baloy’s Bakeshop without any experience making bread, armed only with their love for it and a desire to meet the community’s demand for fresh baked breads everyday. Ms. Larissa remembers helping out in the kitchen because they didn’t have enough staff back then. Remarkably, the clan with firm roots in Sta. Cruz, Cavite, are also in the food business. “My tita, Ruth M. Baloy (“Jing”), who is the chef and my lola, Myrna M. Baloy (“Nanay Baby”), started the food business, Baloy’s Catering. It started out as a canteen for college students many years ago. The catering started that time as well but they can only accommodate 100 people at the maximum. As a result, they expanded and built a bigger canteen and catering service,” the young entreprenuer said. No wonder, the passion to create good food and run a successful business is in her blood.
That day, we found the best bread in the south. Among the savory delights we sampled were the Chicken Pesto Croissant, Caviteño Turnover and Hamonado & Kasilyo Croissant. Their Chicken Pesto croissant was heftier than the usual and generously filled with chicken and creamy pesto supplied by the basil farm in Hospicio de San Jose. The turnover has Imus Longganisa filling, its richness balanced by their secret atsara (you can see the many layers of pastry when you cut into it). The Hamonado & Kasilyo Croissant has the winning duo of sweet ham (a generous heaping, thank you very much) and salty Kasilyo or cheese (heavy in weight and flavor, soft and oh so good!).
Au Four sweet treats are just as satisfying if you have a sweet tooth. We had the incredibly buttery, flaky pastry called Apple Turnover (made with real apples — lots of it — for a delightfully moist inside and and nice crunch outside), the Chocolate Croissant, Hazelnut Bomboloni and Dulce de Leche Bomboloni. Doesn’t “Bomboloni” sound rich and decadent? I find this to be the chunkier, heavier version of the doughnut, and Au Four’s bombolonis are so delicious it can make a bad day turn instantly brighter.
Ms Larissa emphasized that each bread is made fresh daily. Yes, everyday, customers can expect to find only the freshest products. Even better, Au Four employs traditional baking techniques to deliver that one-of-a-kind goodness when bread is made the old fashioned way. “Having been involved in the food industry for years now, we’ve learned the value of incorporating authentic recipes into our products and cooking from scratch. That’s why we strive to make everything in-house instead of using ready-made products. From our pastry cream for our cream puff, almond cream filling and other recipes as well. These methods have been passed down ever since our former business venture, others were taught during my college years and some were from friends from all walks of life,” the baker-entrepreneur explained.
A true Caviteña, Ms. Larissa takes pride in sourcing majority of ingredients locally or directly purchasing from partner sellers/manufacturers. She said that one of their goals is to support fellow SMEs by choosing them as their partners. “An example of this is our Hamonado that we get from my tita and lola’s business – Baloy’s Catering. It is one of their specialties that’s why we make sure we highlight it in our Hamonado & Kasilyo Croissant. Another component of the said product is the Kasilyo which we get from a local farm in General Trias, Cavite. They’re known for their dairy products from water buffalos. Even our Caviteño turnover filling – imus longganisa and atsara, are from local partners. We met them years ago when Baloy’s Bakeshop was our only business yet so these have been proven to be of really good quality. With that, we make sure that as our business grows, we bring them with us.”
Ms. Larissa went on to say that while the concept for Au Four Bakery started between the sisters, it is very much a family endeavor. So much so that family dinners often become lively and productive board meetings (over good food, of course). It is admirable and inspirational what a family serious about making bread and focused on their goals can accomplish. She has a very clear vision of what she wants to offer (French-inspired breads baked fresh everyday), why they are doing it (to offer new breads in addition to classic Cavite favorites like rice cakes), and how she wants to present it (in a hip, French bistro with subway tiles, warm wood accents and 120 lightbulbs in the patio — the likes of which have never been seen before in their city).
But what inspired her (and the whole family) to open Au Four Bakery? “Being raised and born in Cavite City, our family saw the need for the Caviteños to be provided with a new and different food experience. The city has always been rich with culture especially with its cuisine. However, we knew that with the continuous urbanization of the province, the city itself had to keep up. And with that, there is always that realization that the Caviteños deserve more – good food, quality service and a more innovative selection. So, in simpler words, what sets Au Four Bakery apart from other bakeries and cafes is the different experience we aim to provide our customers while staying true to our roots. That means offering new products while incorporating Cavite’s heritage, traditions, etc. An example of this as mentioned before are our Hamonado & Kasilyo Croissants, Caviteño Turnover, etc,” she narrated.
We certainly got a surprising yet delightful experience. It was a joy to discover that Au Four Bakery has the most substantial croissant. Ever. One is good enough for a light yet satisfactory meal (but we won’t judge if you take two or more). We tasted the handmade quality, that personal touch adding dimension and flavor that’s getting rare to find these days — especially in something as quickly consumable as bread.
We can’t help but ask what their secret is. “Our secret is not really a secret as it lies in our name itself. Aside from its French translation (baked in an oven), the real meaning is how we’re four in the family and how all of us are closely involved even from the beginning. It’s all about running the business with love, and faith in God by acknowledging that all success comes from Him alone. And with that, we make sure that all decisions for Au Four will glorify Him.”
Au Four goes beyond the usual panaderia classics by offering French breads and pastries with a distinct Caviteño twist. What’s more, the bakery also has sumptuous cakes (the Chocolate Truffle and the Oreo Cheesecake are two bestsellers) and over 40 flavors of ice cream (the family has been a reseller of the popular Big Scoop Ice Cream since 2015). There is so much to rave about this French Bakery but we must mention the sisters’ brainchild, the Bravocado, a unique spin on the Brazo de Mercedes, where layers of meringue, custard and Avocado ice cream are packed in a copper-toned tin can, ready for gift giving and pasalubong.
In parting, Ms Larissa said that they understand that eating bread makes people happy and they want their customers to feel at home in Au Four. “As owners, we think like customers, ‘Will I buy this?’ At the end of the day, the only question that matters is ‘Masarap ba?’”
We answer, “Masarap talaga!”
Get the Au Four Bakery experience (must-try: melt-in-the-mouth Ensaimada Ice Cream Sandwich)! They’re open 10am-8pm Monday to Sarurday at 996 Manila-Cavite Road, Sta. Cruz, Cavite City. For more information, call 0997.167.5465 or visit Facebook.com/aufourbakery/ and @aufourbakery.
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